Wellesley College has made an active attempt in recent years to lower loans and increase grant aid. Nationally, college graduates this year on average face $30,000 dollars in debt, the highest student loan debt ever recorded. Meanwhile, the federal government this year will pay student loan collection companies $600 million. The U.S. Department of Education announced changes to its rules last week to ensure that loan servicers provide more affordable payment plans. This change is an attempt to address the national concern that taking out multiple loans does not help a student’s financial situation but actually drives him or her deeper into debt.
At Wellesley, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 68 percent of the student population received financial aid in the 2012-13 academic year. Fifty-nine percent of the financial aid packages consisted of grants averaging $38,166 while 31 percent of aid recipients took out loans averaging $4,339. Unless a student is able to get her loans eliminated by fulfilling certain financial criteria, according to the Student Financial Services (SFS) website, there is the standard “low loan package” with a four-year debt of $15,200.
In comparison, USA Today found that in the 2011-12 academic year, 71 percent of undergraduates received some sort of financial aid. Fifty-nine percent of undergraduates received grants averaging $6,200, while 42 percent of undergraduates took out an average of $7,100 in loans.
The Student Aid Society is one of the main sources of funds for SFS to give out as grants and loans. As a nonprofit organization dedicated solely to supporting students at Wellesley, the Student Aid Society receives funds from the College endowment which is replenished through investments, repayment and donations.
For the 2014-2015 academic year, the Student Aid Society has committed $335,000 for grants and $600,000 for loans with a five percent simple interest rate. Additionally, the office provides more than $130,000 in the form of bookstore vouchers and Amazon gift cards annually to all students who are on financial aid.
Student Aid Society also offers short term emergency loans between $20 to $300. Any student may apply for these emergency loans.
“If a student comes in and asks for help, we go on a case by case basis. We don’t review their status as to whether [they are] getting any financial aid,” said Catherine Schedlbauer, office administrator of Student Aid Society on emergency loans. “We are here to support the college, and I think the college does a great job in supporting the students,” Schedlbauer said.
In addition to the funds from the Student Aid Society, the SFS also assists students in taking out a variety of loans. Federal loans are available for students who have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid with an interest of 4.66 percent. Federal Perkins Loans have a 5 percent interest and are administered by the school, not by banks or by the Department of Education. There is also the Wellesley College Loan, a 9 percent simple interest loan, and the Plitt-Kirgan Loan, a 5 percent interest loan.
Although Wellesley has made an effort to reduce the number and size of loans students have to take out by offering grants, loans still have an impact on Wellesley student life.
“My friend actually had to take a year off [due to costs],” Mollie Krawitz ’17 said. “She is leaving school and trying to come back as a Davis Scholar.”
Krawitz also acknowledges that the stress level surrounding loans depends on the family. She noted that some students receive guaranteed financial assistance from their families.
“Others have parents who are completely uninvolved and have to take out $100,000 by the time they graduate,” Krawitz said.
Multiple students echoed that even after students graduate and secure a job, having to pay loans back over a long period of time is daunting.